Bucks hold off Kings
MILWAUKEE — Four nights ago, the Sacramento Kings were embarrassed on their home court by the Milwaukee Bucks and five minutes into the rematch Saturday night in Milwaukee, it looked like history might repeat itself.
But the Kings had other ideas and clawed their way back from a 20-point deficit in the third, only to fall short in a 109-104 loss at the Bradley Center.
“They kind of pushed around, we turned the ball around and didn’t play with any energy,” Kings coach Dave Joerger said of his team’s anemic start. “I’m proud of the way we battled back from there. We won the last three quarters, but that’s only a consolation prize. The guys didn’t quit, though. They kept fighting.”
Fueled by four Kings turnovers, the Bucks raced out to a 10-0 lead, leading Joerger to do a full line change with 8:50 left in the opening quarter.
“Your back is kind of against the wall at that point,” Joerger said. “You have to find a way to bring some energy and I thought they did that tonight.”
That group, anchored by Zach Randolph, stopped the bleeding and cut a 16-point deficit in half, making it 33-25 heading to the second.
“We have to get off to better starts,” said Randolph, who led Sacramento with 22 points on 10-of-15 shooting.
Giannis Antetokounmpo fueled Milwaukee’s hot start. He scored 13 of his game-high 33 points in the opening quarter, scoring nine at the free throw line, and was 17 for 22 from the stripe for the game while the Kings only had 21 attempts.
Randolph hit all four of his shots in the second, scoring eight points but the Kings couldn’t close the gap and went into the break down 11, then went completely ice cold in the third, shooting 38 percent.
Milwaukee led by 12 to open the fourth. Led again by the second unit, the Kings whittled away and made it a five-point game with five minutes to play. An Antetokounmpo jumper gave Milwaukee a 100-93 lead but Garret Temple sank a 3-pointer from the corner with 3:19 left, putting Sacramento within four of the lead and Bogdan Bogdanovic sank a pair of free throws with 1:40 left, making it 102-101.
“They kept playing and we were just going through the motions,” Bucks coach Jason Kidd said. “You have to give those guys credit. They were down and kept playing and made a game of it.”
John Henson’s hook put Milwaukee back up three and Antetokounmpo’s two free throws made it 106-101 with 42 seconds to go, snuffing out the comeback attempt.
“It’s a lesson learned,” Antetokounmpo said. “We want to become a good team and good teams don’t do that. We’ve got to do a better job keeping the lead and finishing the game up.”
Khris Middleton added 25 points for the Bucks, who also got 19 from Eric Bledsoe while shooting 49.3 percent from the floor and 6 for 19 from distance.
“A win is a win in this league, whether it’s by one or 50,” said Kidd, whose team moved three games above .500 for the first time this season. “We did our job. We came off a long road trip and this was a trap game. We got the win, and now we have to prepare for the best team in the East.”
Sacramento (7-16) connected at a 48.1 percent clip and was 11 for 24 from beyond the arc.
NOTES: Sacramento F Willie Cauley-Stein suffered a lower back strain during the second quarter and did not return after halftime. He finished with three points on 1-of-3 shooting in nine minutes. ... Milwaukee has gone 8-3 since Eric Bledsoe joined the team Nov. 7 in a trade with Phoenix. ... The Kings have lost their last two games in Milwaukee and four in a row overall against the Bucks. ... Sacramento is winless this season in the second half of back-to-back sets. ... Milwaukee made 35 free throws on 42 attempts, both of which marked season highs. ... Kings F Zach Randolph scored 22 points, surpassing the 20-point mark for the forth time this season. ... Bucks F Giannis Antetokounmpo surpassed the 30-point mark for the ninth time this season, finishing with 33 points. He began the night second in the league with an average of 29.2 points.